This book proposes and explores the idea that the forced union of the aleatory and epistemic aspects of probability is a sterile hybrid, inspired and nourished for 300 years by a false hope of formalizing inductive reasoning, making uncertainty the object of precise calculation. Because this is not really a possible goal, statistical inference is not, cannot be, doing for us today what we imagine it is doing for us. It is for these reasons that statistical inference can be characterized as a myth.
The book is aimed primarily at social scientists, for whom statistics and statistical inference are a common concern and frustration. Because the historical development given here is not merely anecdotal, but makes clear the guiding ideas and ambitions that motivated the formulation of particular methods, this book offers an understanding of statistical inference which has not hitherto been available. It will also serve as a supplement to the standard statistics texts. Finally, general readers will find here an interesting study with implications far beyond statistics. The development of statistical inference, to its present position of prominence in the social sciences, epitomizes a number of trends in Western intellectual history of the last three centuries, and the 11th chapter, considering the function of statistical inference in light of our needs for structure, rules, authority, and consensus in general, develops some provocative parallels, especially between epistemology and politics.
About the Author: Michael C. Acree received his Ph.D. in psychology from Clark University in 1978, where he completed the clinical training program and also worked as Data Analysis Consultant for the Department of Psychology. At the University of Nebraska--Lincoln he was the first member of the psychology faculty to be elected to all three programs--Experimental, Social, and Clinical. During his 3 years there, he taught undergraduate courses in clinical and abnormal psychology and graduate statistics and supervised clinical practicum students. After leaving Nebraska voluntarily in 1979, he was for 5 years Assistant Research Psychologist at the Center on Deafness at the University of California, San Francisco. There he conducted long-term longitudinal research on prelingually deaf children, and was Principal Investigator on a $75,000 grant from the National Institute of Handicapped Research, entitled "Dialogue with Deaf Children: Its Relation to Intellectual and Personal Growth." From 1985 to 1990 he was Assistant Professor at the Pacific Graduate School of Psychology in Palo Alto, where he was awarded a $28,000 grant by the Chapman Research Fund on "Roots of Social Science Methodology: Ontogenesis and History." After 5 years as Associate Professor at the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco, he joined the UCSF Center for AIDS Prevention Studies as Senior Statistician, and in 2001 he moved in the same capacity to the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine, until his retirement in 2017.